Keeping pace with the rapid evolution of photography — understanding its formal capacities, its social relevance, its relationship to other media — has proved easier, on the whole, for artists than for galleries, which are more prone to rigid definitions and categories.
In setting about to enliven its program, with a streamlined name and a new, more contemporary-feeling space, Cohen Gallery (formerly Stephen Cohen Gallery) does well to enlist in its current exhibition three smart and formally canny young artists, not all of whom work exclusively in photography.
The show, titled “Falling From Great Heights,” consists of three mini solo shows, each exploring some aspect of abstraction in photography.
Siri Kaur, in her series “Half of the Whole,” manipulates photographs of the cosmos taken through a telescope using the tools of color darkroom processing to create lush, enigmatic compositions that feel simultaneously scientific and fantastical.
John Knuth presents two series of small Polaroids, each of which draws a beautiful range of highly formalized near-abstract imagery from basic items of disaster preparedness: the orange smoke of an emergency flare and the crinkled metallic surface of a Mylar blanket.
In Heather Rasmussen’s series “DestructConstruct,” the artist re-creates found images of international shipping container accidents out of folded paper, Scotch tape, cotton stuffing and other schoolroom materials, then photographs them to produce large, crisp, colorful prints. Rather than skirt the line between abstraction and representation, the work cleverly encompasses both simultaneously: the diagrammatic abstraction of an event using palpably concrete and familiar materials.
It is a dichotomy that each artist insists on maintaining, making of photography not an either/or but a yes/and equation.
Cohen Gallery, 7354 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, (323) 937-5525, through May 11. Closed Sundays and Mondays. www.stephencohengallery.com